One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovichby Alexander Solzhenitsyn
From the icy blast of reveille through the sweet release of sleep, Ivan Denisovich endures. A common carpenter, he is one of millions viciously imprisoned for countless years on baseless charges, sentenced to the waking nightmares of the Soviet work camps in Siberia. Even in the face of degrading hatred, where life is reduced to a bowl of gruel and a rare cigarette, hope and dignity prevail. This powerful novel of fact is a scathing indictment of Communist tyranny, and an eloquent affirmation of the human spirit.
“Stark . . . the story of how one falsely accused convict and his fellow prisoners survived or perished in an arctic slave labor camp after the war.”
“Both as a political tract and as a literary work, it is in the Doctor Zhivago category.”
“Dramatic . . . outspoken . . . graphically detailed . . . a moving human record.”
- David Rehak
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.83(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.50(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
REVEILLE WAS sounded, as always, at 5 a.m.--a hammer pounding on a rail outside camp HQ. The ringing noise came faintly on and off through the windowpanes covered with ice more than an inch thick, and died away fast. It was cold and the warder didn't feel like going on banging.
The sound stopped and it was pitch black on the other side of the window, just like in the middle of the night when Shukhov had to get up to go to the latrine, only now three yellow beams fell on the window--from two lights on the perimeter and one inside the camp.
He didn't know why but nobody'd come to open up the barracks. And you couldn't hear the orderlies hoisting the latrine tank on the poles to carry it out.
Shukhov never slept through reveille but always got up at once. That gave him about an hour and a half to himself before the morning roll call, a time when anyone who knew what was what in the camps could always scrounge a little something on the side. He could sew someone a cover for his mittens out of a piece of old lining. He could bring one of the big gang bosses his dry felt boots while he was still in his bunk, to save him the trouble of hanging around the pile of boots in his bare feet and trying to find his own. Or he could run around to one of the supply rooms where there might be a little job, sweeping or carrying something. Or he could go to the mess hall to pick up bowls from the tables and take piles of them to the dishwashers. That was another way of getting food, but there were always too many other people with the same idea. And the worst thing was that if there was something left in a bowl you started to lick it. You couldn't help it. And Shukhov could stillhear the words of his first gang boss, Kuzyomin--an old camp hand who'd already been inside for twelve years in 1943. Once, by a fire in a forest clearing, he'd said to a new batch of men just brought in from the front:
"It's the law of the jungle here, fellows. But even here you can live. The first to go is the guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the infirmary, or squeals to the screws."
He was dead right about this--though it didn't always work out that way with the fellows who squealed to the screws. They knew how to look after themselves. They got away with it and it was the other guys who suffered.
Shukhov always got up at reveille, but today he didn't. He'd been feeling lousy since the night before--with aches and pains and the shivers, and he just couldn't manage to keep warm that night. In his sleep he'd felt very sick and then again a little better. All the time he dreaded the morning.
But the morning came, as it always did.
Anyway, how could anyone get warm here, what with the ice piled up on the window and a white cobweb of frost running along the whole barracks where the walls joined the ceiling? And a hell of a barracks it was.
Shukhov stayed in bed. He was lying on the top bunk, with his blanket and overcoat over his head and both his feet tucked in the sleeve of his jacket. He couldn't see anything, but he could tell by the sounds what was going on in the barracks and in his own part of it. He could hear the orderlies tramping down the corridor with one of the twenty-gallon latrine tanks. This was supposed to be light work for people on the sick list--but it was no joke carrying the thing out without spilling it!
Then someone from Gang 75 dumped a pile of felt boots from the drying room on the floor. And now someone from his gang did the same (it was also their turn to use the drying room today). The gang boss and his assistant quickly put on their boots, and their bunk creaked. The assistant gang boss would now go and get the bread rations. And then the boss would take off for the Production Planning Section (PPS) at HQ.
But, Shukhov remembered, this wasn't just the same old daily visit to the PPS clerks. Today was the big day for them. They'd heard a lot of talk of switching their gang--104--from putting up workshops to a new job, building a new "Socialist Community Development." But so far it was nothing more than bare fields covered with snowdrifts, and before anything could be done there, holes had to be dug, posts put in, and barbed wire put up--by the prisoners for the prisoners, so they couldn't get out. And then they could start building.
You could bet your life that for a month there'd be no place where you could get warm--not even a hole in the ground. And you couldn't make a fire--what could you use for fuel? So your only hope was to work like hell.
The gang boss was worried and was going to try to fix things, try to palm the job off on some other gang, one that was a little slower on the uptake. Of course you couldn't go empty-handed. It would take a pound of fatback for the chief clerk. Or even two.
Maybe Shukhov would try to get himself on the sick list so he could have a day off. There was no harm in trying. His whole body was one big ache.
Then he wondered--which warder was on duty today?
He remembered that it was Big Ivan, a tall, scrawny sergeant with black eyes. The first time you saw him he scared the pants off you, but when you got to know him he was the easiest of all the duty warders--wouldn't put you in the can or drag you off to the disciplinary officer. So Shukhov could stay put till it was time for Barracks 9 to go to the mess hall.
The bunk rocked and shook as two men got up together--on the top Shukhov's neighbor, the Baptist Alyoshka, and down below Buynovsky, who'd been a captain in the navy.
When they'd carried out the two latrine tanks, the orderlies started quarreling about who'd go to get the hot water. They went on and on like two old women. The electric welder from Gang 20 barked at them:
"Hey, you old bastards!" And he threw a boot at them. "I'll make you shut up."
The boot thudded against a post. The orderlies shut up.
The assistant boss of the gang next to them grumbled in a low voice:
"Vasili Fyodorovich! The bastards pulled a fast one on me in the supply room. We always get four two-pound loaves, but today we only got three. Someone'll have to get the short end."
He spoke quietly, but of course the whole gang heard him and they all held their breath. Who was going to be shortchanged on rations this evening?
Shukhov stayed where he was, on the hard-packed sawdust of his mattress. If only it was one thing or another--either a high fever or an end to the pain. But this way he didn't know where he was.
While the Baptist was whispering his prayers, the Captain came back from the latrine and said to no one in particular, but sort of gloating:
"Brace yourselves, men! It's at least twenty below."
Shukhov made up his mind to go to the infirmary.
And then some strong hand stripped his jacket and blanket off him. Shukhov jerked his quilted overcoat off his face and raised himself up a bit. Below him, his head level with the top of the bunk, stood the Thin Tartar.
So this bastard had come on duty and sneaked up on them.
"S-854!" the Tartar read from the white patch on the back of the black coat. "Three days in the can with work as usual."
The minute they heard his funny muffled voice everyone in the entire barracks--which was pretty dark (not all the lights were on) and where two hundred men slept in fifty bug-ridden bunks--came to life all of a sudden. Those who hadn't yet gotten up began to dress in a hurry.
"But what for, Comrade Warder?" Shukhov asked, and he made his voice sound more pitiful than he really felt.
The can was only half as bad if you were given normal work. You got hot food and there was no time to brood. Not being let out to work--that was real punishment.
"Why weren't you up yet? Let's go to the Commandant's office," the Tartar drawled--he and
Shukhov and everyone else knew what he was getting the can for.
There was a blank look on the Tartar's hairless, crumpled face. He turned around and looked for somebody else to pick on, but everyone--whether in the dark or under a light, whether on a bottom bunk or a top one--was shoving his legs into the black, padded trousers with numbers on the left knee. Or they were already dressed and were wrapping themselves up and hurrying for the door to wait outside till the Tartar left.
If Shukhov had been sent to the can for something he deserved he wouldn't have been so upset. What made him mad was that he was always one of the first to get up. But there wasn't a chance of getting out of it with the Tartar. So he went on asking to be let off just for the hell of it, but meantime pulled on his padded trousers (they too had a worn, dirty piece of cloth sewed above the left knee, with the number S-854 painted on it in black and already faded), put on his jacket (this had two numbers, one on the chest and one on the back), took his boots from the pile on the floor, put on his cap (with the same number in front), and went out after the Tartar.
The whole Gang 104 saw Shukhov being taken off, but no one said a word. It wouldn't help, and what could you say? The gang boss might have stood up for him, but he'd left already. And Shukhov himself said nothing to anyone. He didn't want to aggravate the Tartar. They'd keep his breakfast for him and didn't have to be told.
The two of them went out.
It was freezing cold, with a fog that caught your breath. Two large searchlights were crisscrossing over the compound from the watchtowers at the far corners. The lights on the perimeter and the lights inside the camp were on full force. There were so many of them that they blotted out the stars.
With their felt boots crunching on the snow, prisoners were rushing past on their business--to the latrines, to the supply rooms, to the package room, or to the kitchen to get their groats cooked. Their shoulders were hunched and their coats buttoned up, and they all felt cold, not so much because of the freezing weather as because they knew they'd have to be out in it all day. But the Tartar in his old overcoat with shabby blue tabs walked steadily on and the cold didn't seem to bother him at all.
They went past the high wooden fence around the punishment block (the stone prison inside the camp), past the barbed-wire fence that guarded the bakery from the prisoners, past the corner of the HQ where a length of frost-covered rail was fastened to a post with heavy wire, and past another post where--in a sheltered spot to keep the readings from being too low--the thermometer hung, caked over with ice. Shukhov gave a hopeful sidelong glance at the milk-white tube. If it went down to forty-two below zero they weren't supposed to be marched out to work. But today the thermometer wasn't pushing forty or anything like it.
They went into HQ--straight into the warders' room. There it turned out--as Shukhov had already had a hunch on the way--that they never meant to put him in the can but simply that the floor in the warders' room needed scrubbing. Sure enough, the Tartar now told Shukhov that he was letting him off and ordered him to mop the floor.
Mopping the floor in the warders' room was the job of a special prisoner--the HQ orderly, who never worked outside the camp. But a long time ago he'd set himself up in HQ and now had a free run of the rooms where the Major, the disciplinary officer, and the security chief worked. He waited on them all the time and sometimes got to hear things even the warders didn't know. And for some time he'd figured that to scrub floors for ordinary warders was a little beneath him. They called for him once or twice, then got wise and began pulling in ordinary prisoners to do the job.
The stove in the warders' room was blazing away. A couple of warders who'd undressed down to their dirty shirts were playing checkers, and a third who'd left on his belted sheepskin coat and felt boots was sleeping on a narrow bench. There was a bucket and rag in the corner.
Shukhov was real pleased and thanked the Tartar for letting him off:
"Thank you, Comrade Warder. I'll never get up late again."
The rule here was simple--finish your job and get out. Now that Shukhov had been given some work, his pains seemed to have stopped. He took the bucket and went to the well without his mittens, which he'd forgotten and left under his pillow in the rush.
The gang bosses reporting at the PPS had formed a small group near the post, and one of the younger ones, who was once a Hero of the Soviet Union, climbed up and wiped the thermometer.
The others were shouting up to him: "Don't breathe on it or it'll go up."
"Go up . . . the hell it will . . . it won't make a fucking bit of difference anyway."
Tyurin--the boss of Shukhov's work gang--was not there. Shukhov put down the bucket and dug his hands into his sleeves. He wanted to see what was going on.
The fellow up the post said in a hoarse voice: "Seventeen and a half below--shit!"
And after another look just to make sure, he jumped down.
"Anyway, it's always wrong--it's a damned liar," someone said. "They'd never put in one that works here."
The gang bosses scattered. Shukhov ran to the well. Under the flaps of his cap, which he'd lowered but hadn't tied, his ears ached with the cold.
The top of the well was covered by a thick of ice so that the bucket would hardly go through the hole. And the rope was stiff as a board.
Shukhov's hands were frozen, so when he got back to the warders' room with the steaming bucket he shoved them in the water. He felt warmer.
Meet the Author
ALEKSANDR ISAYEVICH SOLZHENITSYN (11 December 1918 - 3 August 2008) was a Russian writer, dissident and activist. He helped to raise global awareness of the gulag and the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system from 1918 to 1956. While his writings were often suppressed, he wrote several books most notably The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works. "For the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature", Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 but returned to Russia in 1994 after the Soviet system had collapsed.
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The Russian Gulags were, like the entirety of the USSR, shrouded by the Iron Curtain, preventing all communications for the prisoners really to the outside world. These labor camps were surrounded in secret until Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote and got published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story of historical fiction about a prisoner in a Russian Gulag. This prisoner, Shukhov, gives a story based on the experiences Solzhenitsyn had while imprisoned in a Gulag. Shukhov tells the story from dawn to dusk, highlighting the inhumanities of the labor camp and illuminating that which was once dark to the world. The story focuses on major themes such as the dehumanization of prisoners and the lengths necessary to preserve one’s humanity in a truly inhumane environment. Throughout this single day in prison, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who, along with many other prisoners, has accepted his fate and period of servitude in the labor camp, attempts to survive. The day’s events may seem a bit repetitive; however, this repetition is necessary in order to highlight the severity of key factors opposing Shukhov’s survival, mainly the dehumanizing guards (who refer to the prisoners by code name at certain times, instead of the Soviet brotherly title of “comrade”), the malnutrition forced upon prisoners, and the harsh freezing associated with the environment. Throughout this day-to-day experience, Shukhov must endure, preserving his humanity on the hope of leaving some day. This one day seems rather average, but that seems to have been the author’s intention (to make a day which would serve as a representation of each and every day of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag). *SPOILER ALERT STARTS* The descriptive and detailed style of Solzhenitsyn may seem dull at certain points in the novel; however, in one scene, where Ivan Denisovich Shukhov attempts to pass the guards with a small hacksaw blade in his glove, the level of detail and insight into Shukhov’s mind in this scene was really exciting and brings into concept the Limbo-esque state of existence Shukhov and the other prisoners are imprisoned in. Their fates can change quite rapidly. For example, if Shukhov’s hidden blade had been discovered by the Soviet guard who was frisking him and had just patted his other glove, then Shukhov would have been kept from working and fed even less, which would cause him to be unable to work and hence fade into nothingness and cease to truly exist. *SPOILER ALERT ENDS* This book reminded me of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 in that both stories give the cold-cut facts in a similar style and being in similar time periods. However, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich seems more focused on the physical strides necessary for survival, while The End: Hamburg 1943 seemed to emphasize more the mental ramifications associated with survival in a traumatic environment. Based on my reading experience, I would suggest this work of historic fiction only to those readers who are fans of the genre or of Stalinist USSR history.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is very much a book for readers with a specific taste in literature. Being that the book was translated directly from Russian, a lot of what the author might have originally intended to come across a certain way did not translate well and bothered me quite a lot when I was reading. The dialogue between characters was hard to read and did not flow as well as opposed to if it was written in english. The book itself focuses mainly on the struggle of man kind as well as the importance of faith in Ivan Denisovich Shukhov's life. As much as I didn't want to be sympathetic towards Ivan and his struggle throughout his day, there was something that wanted me to feel that way only because there was a sort of innocence that I felt was being exuded by the character. Other than that, I didn't really find myself desperate to read more when I would put the book down. The climax of the story was somewhat of a letdown while I was reading the book. Being set in a Stalinist Labor camp during an era of many political happenings and struggles, I was pleased with the many historical references while reading the story, especially since the book itself is extremely monotone and somewhat dull in tone. If you are interested in World HIstory and the Stalin Era in the Soviet Union, this book is very much for you! If not, you will be very disappointed and bored. It is a very short read and very easy to understand if you can look past the occasional language issues, but this book is not for everyone.
Lee Epstein Period 5 August 16, 2012 Ivan Denisovich Book Review THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whether the reader enjoys it or not, is a thought-provoking novel with a dynamic protagonist and important themes to take away. This novel documents what a day would be like as a prisoner in Soviet Russia. Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner, and he was trying to show his readers what his experience was like. I felt as if a lot of the book was not enjoyable, there weren’t clear plot elements such as a rising action and a climax, but I truly enjoyed the lessons it taught me about my life and about life throughout Soviet Russia. The protagonist’s name is Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. I believe that the title does not use his last name in the title because Solzhenitsyn wants the reader to know that one of the basic struggles of soviet Russia and of those camps is finding any sort of independence. It is truly amazing that the whole novel documents just one day in Shukhov’s sentence, out of the 3,653 days that he serves, and this day proves to be probably the most important day of his life. Shukhov goes through a complete transformation in one day, and the way he sees some of his fellow prisoners changes as well. He starts his day by waking up late, and not feeling well. In other words, his day could not have started much worse. He was almost punished for waking up late by a mean guard, was not allowed to be excused from work for the day, and when he got to breakfast, if it can be called that at all by the little amount of food they are given, his tasteless stew was cold. One of the big ways he changed was not about doing deeds for others, but why he did these deeds. In the morning, he would volunteer to do someone’s work or stand in line for his gang leader, for the sole purpose of what he would get in return. By the end of the day, for the first time in the story, he gives a fellow inmate some extra food that Shukhov had because the inmate was simply hungry. I found it significant that the person who Shukhov gave the food to, Alyoshka, always gives without expecting something in return. Shukhov always wondered how Alyoshka could do this, but he realizes that giving for the sake of giving feels good inside. Ivan Denisovich falls to sleep that night and thinks to himself that this day was almost a happy day for the first time in his sentence. While there are many other themes about why Shukhov goes to sleep happy that night or themes in general, I believe that the motif of giving to give is the most significant theme of the novel and he is happy because he has learned how to be a generous person.
The novel, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an exquisite piece of literature, which I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable yet mentally stimulating read. This book is the story of an average day in the life of an unassuming Russian soldier, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, after he has been wrongfully convicted of treason and served about 8 years of his 10 year sentence in a Russian labor camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn skillfully describes every detail of every moment of every day in order for the reader to become engaged with the character and feel his struggle. I was instantly hooked from the first moment I started reading. Ivan’s goals became my goals, his fears became my fears, and his triumphs became my triumphs, I simply felt like I was there in the labor camp with Ivan, working with him to survive. I sympathized with Ivan because he doesn’t complain about his problems he just accepts his misfortunes and focuses on the now, on what he needs to do to survive for the next day, no time and energy is wasted on pointless endeavors. Ivan is not extraordinary in any typical sense of the word, he is not a genius ahead of his time or a monster of a man able to lift 1000 pounds, but he has a characteristic that is more useful that anything else and that is the ability to find meaning in this place that only wants to take everything away from him. That is how he is able to find the will to survive through all his struggles. Ivan’s success shows me that anyone can overcome any obstacle. This sense of attachment that I developed to the character is really what made me enjoy the book so much, but not only is it an enjoyable read, it has had a significant political impact on the world. This novel is an eye opener, to the horrific realities of Soviet Russia and because of the time of its publication played a significant role in Russia politics by pushing the people of Russia to challenge their government. This novel is a piece of history and a worthwhile read, anyone who decides to read this book has made a good choice.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel that takes place in Siberia, in a Soviet labor camp. If you are looking for an action packed book, a comedy, or even a tragedy, this is not the book for you. Although fictional, this story illustrates the cruelty and reality of what happened in the Soviet camps during the 1950’s. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author, does not exclude a single detail from his novel. As the title states, this piece of literary work is solely about one day in a prisoners life. By writing a book about such a short period of time, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates how much happens around us that is overlooked. One of the themes he enforces is the appreciation of the little things in life. For example, prisoners in the labor camp savor every moment of enjoyment they can. While Solzhenitsyn’s detail is vital in order to convey some of his thoughts, it is detrimental at points. The immense amount of detail put into the novel makes every event happen slowly. As a result of this, there is not much room for character development. For me, this takes away from the novel because it is difficult to relate to characters that are described vaguely. While Solzhenitsyn’s intentions were certainly not to develop an eventful book, I do believe some degree of action should have been incorporated. However, I do see what the author’s goal was. He wanted to portray the brutality and severity of what happened in these camps. Adding unnecessary eventful scenes would only take away from the historical aspect of the novel. *MINOR SPOILER* One theme the author emphasizes is the idea that if you work hard you will be rewarded. I say this because in the novel, Ivan works hard even when everyone else slacks off. He works hard even though he knows he is not getting anything out of it. He works hard even though he knows his hard work is going to the foundation that put him in the labor camp. Ivan is also generous to his fellow inmates. He shares his spoon and knife, which he crafted himself, as well as his bread rations with his companions. As a result of his hard work, Ivan is rewarded with larger bread rations. As a result of his generosity, he is rewarded with kindness and friendship. Ivan understands the situation that he is in and never complains. He is an optimistic man who finds joy in everything he can. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written and accurate depiction of what happened in the Soviet labor camps. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an inspirational, historical novel.
A tale of sheer survival and will to carry on, Alexander Solzhenitsyn takes the reader on a 24- hour tour of a Soviet prison in the Siberian tundra as he follows hardened Russian inmate Ivan Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn gives the reader a third-person perspective as well as glimpses into Denisovich’s thoughts and feelings. Throughout the novel there is a strong feeling of repetitiveness and exhaustion, this allows the reader to truly grasp the emotions of the inmates that are being held in this prison. I would recommend this work of literature for anyone interested in World War II themed history, it gives the audience a different point of view of the super power the was the Soviet Union. The book starts off with a sluggish mood to it as the prisoners are awoken from their warm dreams into a freezing world. From here and until they reach the mess hall the writing is repetitive and can be summed up in a few words. The repetitiveness of this section gives the reader a feeling that can be compared to waking up for school or work early in the morning. This can be hard to read through, but as soon as the reader is introduced to a few of Denisovich’s fellow inmates the pace changes. As new characters are introduced the reader is able to see how differently their methods of self-preservation are in contrast to Denisovich’s. This is also when Solzhenitsyn allows the reader to hear Denisovich’s opinion on the people around him, adding further depth into him as a character. The novel continues on and takes the reader to a nearly destroyed power plant, where Denisovich and his fellow prisoners are forced to build walls to begin restoring the locale. Here, Solzhenitsyn gives the audience more insight to the characters as they work. Work ethics vary from person to person and again the contrasting character traits are seen. Besides their obvious differences all of them much cooperate to work towards the final goal, which is building the walls for the power plant. This will in turn earn allow them to stay out of trouble with the prison officials and they can sleep restfully through the night. Finally, night arrives and the groups of inmates return to camp HQ, with some unforeseen trouble along the way. The action of the novel, again, tunes down as Denisovich dines on his well-earned supper of gruel and everyone gets ready for the night. Multiple unexpected disturbances wake the prisoners from their sleep throughout the night and that is when Denisovich does something that is completely out of his character. Overall this novel was an enjoyable read, Solzhenitsyn does a very good job of allowing his audience to feel as if they were trapped in this prison as well. It does have its slow and repetitive parts, but the good outshines the bad by far, I would recommend this piece.
This novel vividly portrays one day in the life of a Russian prisoner captured unjustly on account of high treason. I found the novel very interesting because it revealed an untold story in the history of Russian brutality. The history of the German concentration camp of this period is well documented and publicized but people remain uninformed of the evils conducted by people on their own people. The setting of the novel is in a Gulag which is a Siberian work camp where mostly Russian prisoners were basically sent to go die. In many ways the novel embodies the struggle between man versus nature in its cruelest form and man’s to cope with fellow men to survive. The novel was very insightful in that it caused me to reevaluate myself in that Ivan, in the face dehumanization and uncertainty of survival, relentlessly treads on to seek his freedom. A normal high school student may be reluctant to complete difficult and extensive homework assignments and blow them off entirely, but when you have something as intrinsic as freedom taken away from you, then you will complete any challenge despite rigor or lack of motivation to regain such a value. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov repeatedly proves this human behavior as he strives for his freedom, tirelessly working with his comrades, building walls of brick and mortar, and forging a brotherhood with his close inmates in squad 104. He battles daily challenges of sickness, cold, and hunger as well as avoiding any unwanted contact with a guard or official. One of the most interesting things about this work was that it was in fact a reflection of the author’s life experience in a Gulag under similar circumstances. What led me to be intrigued further was that the author himself underwent criminal sentences and was exiled from Russia soon after the book was published. The book itself was banned in the Soviet Union until its eventual downfall in 1994. In any case, I urge you to purchase a copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich because it will make you realize that no matter whom you are you can be thankful for your life and freedom and that hopefully you will never be exposed to such a difficult life.
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!!* One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an intriguing novel of the challenges a single man must face whilst in a Russian labor camp. The novel depicts the hardships faced by prisoners under the reign of Joseph Stalin, and the pains they must face just to make it through each day. Although the novel starts out slow while the author is really making a point of describing the setting, it really picks up after Solzhenitsyn has finish setting the scene. Alexander Solzhenitsyn takes you through a day in the life of a fairly typical man by the name of Ivan Denisovich. The author goes into detail as the story progresses, and tells of the troubles he experiences in a single day during his time at the labor camp. The prisoners must struggle with their daily tasks, and the author does a great job of making the readers feel sympathy towards them as they go through just one of the many days they are kept there. Although the novel is not necessarily a "nail biter", it is quite emotional as you follow the men that are affected by the terrible conditions faced in the Russian labor camps. For those of you who really enjoy historical or political novels, then this short novel will surely keep you entertained. If you are the type of reader who needs to be kept on the edge of his or her seat, then "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" probably is not the right book for you. Although this novel probably wouldn't be my first choice because I would normally find these books to be somewhat of a bore to me, the author managed to keep my (relatively fleeting) attention on the novel. Solzhenitsyn pulls you into the suspense felt by the prisoners as they attempt smuggle items ranging from things such as extra cloth to keep them warm at night and on the fields, to extra food to keep them healthy and able to put up with the amount of work they are forced to do. He helps us to feel the joy Shukhov experiences after he is rewarded for his hard work, and also helps us feel the fear the prisoners experience from the mere thought of "the hole". The author has earned my respect as someone who can not only write a novel that is informative and emotional, but also entertaining and even suspenseful at times. Although I am not a huge fan of political novels myself, I would not mind reading another on of Solzhenitsyn's books, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and wouldn't mind reading another one of his books and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone interested in political novels or the aftermath of WWII. However, I would not recommend this book to someone who prefers to have a bit more excitement in their readings. As mentioned before, it is not the most exciting book out there. It is however quite informative and very interesting to the few of those who enjoy novels such as this one.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tells a story of the hardships of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a prisoner of a Stalinist labor camp in 1951. The reader follows Denisovich through his experience in the camp, and witness atrocities that those imprisoned in the camp must bare witness to. Within the camp, prisoners are subject to attempts to weaken them physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. These attempts include the deprivation of nourishment, the attempts at humiliating them, the replacing of their names with serial numbers, nude body exams in extreme temperatures, an extreme lack of privacy, and other exercises in dehumanization. The protagonist exhibits the persistent nature of the human being’s desire to survive in his will to go on despite the horrid conditions of the world he has been placed into and he refuses to be dehumanized at the hand of the prison. His awareness of the prison’s attempts leads him to take extra measures to ensure his civility and humanity is kept intact as he pursues surviving as a human being in a prison designed to dehumanize its prisoners. One thing that really stands out about this book is how Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes just an ordinary day in the camp and manages to make his audience feel the pain and bitterness of the characters as well as the slight happiness the characters feel when they experience any kind of luxury, such as smoking tobacco, getting new clothes, and sneaking extra portions of food. The novel is clearly addressing an older audience, and is likely to not be within the interests of younger readers. The book uses historical context as a major part of the storytelling, but more importantly it uses themes of struggle, cruelty and survival; something that tends to repel the younger readers. Even though there are only 139 pages, I realized that I could not finish it as quickly as I usually do. With the story not being very exciting or dramatic, it’s understandable. In my opinion, a person must be in the mood to read this kind of book, if not it can be a bit difficult to get through certain parts, especially in the beginning. Despite this, I believe most people can agree that this story is fantastically written. The language really captures the hardship and harsh environment experienced in the prison. For example, if the cold alone had not been described the way it is, the reader wouldn't fully understand how much the environment alone affected the prisoners. The way the story is written also allows the audience to understand the guards' interactions with the prisoners in a way that give the reader the full effect of what is being described. Overall, I think the story of Ivan Denisovich is worth reading.
Ivan Denisovich Shuckhov humbles me. A poor, uneducated, Russian labor camp prisoner who struggled in the real world, Shuckhov possess traits unlike any other protagonist of a prison/Holocaust novel. His ability to adapt and thrive in the harsh Siberian environment that he was unjustly put in makes for an eye-opening story. His rare ability to acclimate to every situation without complaint and to observe every gruesome situation with an optimistic lens characterizes him as the best of his breed. One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is at time a morose tale, yes, but it is also one of the most prominent examples of the persistence of mankind. Starving, sleep deprived, and freezing, Ivan Denisovich still finds appreciation and comfort in his work, basking in the fact that his masonry skills are far superior to those of his inmates. This action depicts the pride he has in his work that his section of the wall is the straightest and the sturdiest. His outward display of emotions are a fantastic example of the state of awe that Alexander Solzhenitsyn is constantly placing the reader in; that a man tortured and dehumanized on a daily basis can still maintain his dignity enough to successfully function and work in camp, and moreover enjoy the work he does in camp, is entirely astounding. His attitude in hardship reflects the best of mankind and the duration of the human spirit in times of struggle. In addition, the Darwinian aspect that is found throughout the novel only makes the story that much more real. Solzhenitsyn attaches new meaning to the phrase “survival of the fittest” as Ivan’s resilience and longevity are tested in the sub-zero temperatures of the Siberian wasteland. His malleable character, while not relatable to most readers, inflicts a deep found self-awareness and appreciation in us and our surroundings. Furthermore, the language is concise; written from an illiterate perspective it is a simple read, but not necessarily an easy read. Time must be taken in order to do this account justice. However, the lens that this novel is written through creates rawness within the words. The imagery and detail that is put into documenting one day in the life of a Russian labor camp inmate is intense to the point where you feel hungry when Ivan is starving, cold when he is freezing and weary when he is struggling. As dynamic character you sympathize with his hardships and rejoice in his moments of triumph in which he is able to beat the system by sneaking a piece of hacksaw back into camp. The survival system he has perfected for himself over the years is full proof and the optimism he shows at the end of the day only further emphasizes the testament he is to civilization and the beacon he has become in the bleak world of the political prisoner genre. Despite the depressing circumstances that make up this novel, the only real tragedy would be not to read it.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the story of one man’s attempt at survival in a tyrannical Siberian labor camp. Taking place during the tumultuous World War II, Solzhenitsyn explores the tenacity of man, the corruption of a Russian society, and the fight for sustainment. Protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukov, is one of the longest standing members in his squad (the 104th) whose hard work ethic and tactics for survival make him go unnoticed at times by prison guards. While the novel is told in third person point of view it is easy to become lost in the author’s narration and the thoughts of Ivan Denisovich. The sudden changes from the author’s narration and the thoughts of Denisovich create an uncertainty concerning the real motivation behind the character’s actions. Though the book does not lack in explanation I found myself having to go back and recalling that Solzhenitsyn and Denisovich had different thought processes and did not share the same beliefs. The author insists on placing small dialects between the prisoners throughout the novel during the work hour and lunch. I found these areas to be written in vain because it acts as a barrier between the reader and his or her understanding of Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn wrote the novel through the course of one day: it begins when Denisovich wakes up and ends directly after he falls asleep. It is an in depth account of everything Denisovich did that day. Personally, I found the book to be slow and dull. The author spends too much time explaining events that need no explanation such as the way Denisovich puts on his boots or illustrating thoroughly the ritual in which prisoners were counted. Furthermore, the climax was done in such a way that demanded no excitement making the resolution all the more monotonous. I found the element of repetition constantly present throughout the novel. Repetition was found when Solzhenitsyn would describe the prisoner’s routine such as: getting frisked, eating, and looking for tobacco. Though some readers say it was written to stress the critical conditions faced by all members of the prison I found it to be overdone. I recommend this novel to anyone who is fine with following a story that lacks the component of conspiracy and suspense. The novel is however an insightful and informative story about the struggles faced by the prisoners of a Siberieran work camp. The author goes through a lot of trouble to present Denisovich as an ordinary man even when faced with conflict. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich attempts to present the hardships faced by prisoners in a labor camp. Inevitably, its powerful message is blocked by the usage of great detail and descriptions. Its lack of thrill could cause people to become quickly uninterested.
Isaias Jasso Period 5 August 16, 2012 “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” is a story of a man fighting for life one day at a time. Ivan Denisovich is the character Alexander Solzhenitsyn portrays himself as. This piece of literary fiction is in fact what a man truly went through for some part of his life: Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent close to ten years in the Soviet Union’s labor camps and wrote the horrific truths about the camps in this book. The title itself begins the discussion of prisoners battling themselves to maintain their dignity and morality. Throughout the book, most call Ivan Denisovich by his last name, Shukhov. The author wants to show how when there is a deed of great human value, the person is addressed to by their first name and, in Ivan’s case, middle name. The last name signifies that the character is being addresses to as nothing more than a prisoner or prison companion. There are many interpretations to the title alone. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also brings about an interesting combination of weather and human emotions. The setting in the story is a dark and cold vast land where there is little to no hope of escape. When the prisoners start to work, still in the dark morning, the work is slow and no one wants to work. As the work begins to speed up, and as the sun begins to rise higher in the sky, the “zeks” begin to become happier for there is more heat: another way Alexander brings the topic of joy into a hopeless place. Solzhenitsyn finds interesting ways to give emotions an equal weather and comfort counterpart. One of the biggest topics Alexander Solzhenitsyn goes into is how the Soviet Union used certain mechanisms to control the prisoner: physically, emotionally, and logically. Ivan Denisovich is a veteran in the camp life. Shukhov understands the importance of food, and so do the guards and camp leaders. Food is the biggest manipulator for a prisoner. Without food a prisoner will die within days. Food also brings about the topic of self-dignity, only those dignified enough will keep to their plates and find ways to receive more rations, but there are also those that lost their dignity and now scavenge for food, even if it means licking the leftovers of someone else. Food also makes people act like raved dogs; hence the thought process of the prisoner is nowhere to be found. Alexander also talks about how the gulag system will give false hope to the prisoners. For example, Ivan expects to be let out of the camp after his sentence is done, but he knows that the possibility of him staying another couple of years is high. This false hope helps the prisoners want to work to survive longer and, hopefully one day, go home, but home wasn’t an option, only exile or back to another camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” has many interpretations but one overall message: enjoy all that life gives you, because one day you may never have it again.
I would recommend the book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, to readers who desire to become informed and educated about the torment that many Russian civilians experienced in the atrocious labor camps. However, I would not recommend this novel to a person who wishes to read a book about an idealistic persona who fights for his rights and ends up making a drastic change in the Russian system. This book is not an action book; it is not a cliffhanger and does not create grand suspense for the reader. In fact, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is close to if not the opposite of that. It is a rational novel of the common day of a Russian prisoner. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work of fiction, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, shows readers the every day struggles and brutality of surviving in a Siberian “special” camp, or labor camp. Solzhenitsyn does a marvelous job of showing the viciousness of the labor camp without exaggerating or amplifying the realistic nature of the labor camp. Ultimately, the truthfulness and simplicity of Solzhenitsyn’s writing technique strikes an impact in the reader. The book takes place in the 1940’s during the extreme Russian winter. The protagonist, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, is a former Russian soldier who was wrongfully found guilty of betrayal. He has completed eight of the ten years he was sentenced to at the labor camp. Interestingly, Shukhov is neither a hero nor a pessimist. He is a regular middle-aged man who has accepted the fate that he will be in the labor camp for most likely the rest of his life. The other characters help illuminate the stage of acceptance Shukhov has reached. For example, Shukhov is not livid, depressed, or suffering from the harshness of his life anymore. In fact, one of the reasons Shukhov is so good-hearted and compassionate towards his fellow convicts is because he understands what they are going through. *SPOILER ALERT* For instance, prisoners are allowed to send mail twice a year. Most prisoners rush to write to his/her family or loved one, however, Shukhov does not get animated to write to his family. He has accepted his life at the labor camp to such an extent that he feels as if he does not belong to modern day Russian society. He is bewildered that most men become carpet painters and make a decent living by barely doing any work. He believes that men have to earn the money they receive. * END OF SPOILER ALERT* For the most part, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was enjoyable to read. I would have liked to see a more enticing ending to the novel. However considering that Solzhenitsyn was trying to be realistic and not idealistic the book was definitely an impacting and eye opening novel to the shameful and inhumane pasts of Russian history.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a truly influential and strong novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It centralizes on Ivan Denisovich Shukhov’s life and his everyday struggle to overcome and survive the mental and physical abuse he faced in the Soviet labor camps in the mid 1900’s. he was imprisoned because the Soviet government accused him of spying for the Germans. The prisoners must survive inhumane conditions, such as “two hundred men” sleeping on “fifty bug ridden bunks,” (Page 7) working intensely for an entire day in below freezing temperatures, and being fed just enough to barely survive. It vividly depicts one of his 3653 day, or ten-year sentence. SPOILER The story’s major themes are how Shukhov must struggle to maintain his dignity and endure the injustices of the Soviet government under Stalin’s rule. Both Shukhov and the other inmates frequently demonstrate these topics throughout the novel. The prisoners are dehumanized and treated like slaves or animals, and instead of being referred to by their name they are identified by numbers. The novel begins by describing the warder’s intolerance towards the prisoners when Shukhov, or “Shcha-854” is punished for taking slightly longer to get out of bed and threatened to be sent to “three days in the hole.” (Page 7) They are forced to survive on two hundred grams of bread per meal and sometimes are served a sickening gruel, which they learn to appreciate because they must eat to survive with their low daily food rations. Through determination, responsibility, teamwork, and optimism, they were able to achieve their goals and finish each of their designated duties in the Power Station. Once completed, they went to the mess hall where there would be a feeding frenzy of old stale bread and soup. However, Shukhov demonstrates his passion by staying behind in order to continue working on his job when it was unnecessary to do so. Once he joined the others at the chaotic mess hall, he saw how it was teeming with starving savages who were “risking suffocation for the sake of [their] skilly, [their] lawful entitlement of skilly.” (Page 148) Fetyukov, one of the prisoners in Shukhov’s gang, was severely beaten for licking the used bowls. Shukhov earns several food bonuses for his efforts and his good relations with his gang members, enough so that for the first time he is able to give a biscuit to his of the prisoners, Alyoshka the Baptist. Throughout the novel a clear transformation of Shukhov’s personality is apparent. He has a poor attitude in the beginning of the story, but he grew to appreciate what he has and not envy others who were given certain benefits, particularly those regarding food. After realizing how much food he had while on a full stomach, he felt as if “he was really living it up!” (Page 161) While “those who always think the other man’s radish is plumper than their own might feel envy,” “Shukhov knew what was what and didn’t let his belly rumble for other people’s goodies.” (Page 162) He did not complain about missing his family, but instead focused on what was important and maintained an optimistic view on life. One of the most powerful transformations was when he realized he is not jealous of free workers. In fact, he wasn’t even sure anymore if it was better to be free or a prisoner after learning to appreciate what he had. The most prominent moral of this story is to appreciate what you have and to make the most out of every situation.
A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an interesting, if forgivably slow paced, account of a single day of the titular character’s ten year gulag imprisonment. At first, the narrator’s seemingly abrupt changes in focus and attention may prove distracting. As the story progresses, however, one begins to feel more as though this is simply the natural rapid shifts in the concerns of Shukhov, (Ivan), and the story feels less as if it is being told and more as if it is simply happening. The protagonist has little time to pause and ponder to question his circumstances; he lives in the present, as it is the only possible way to maintain health and sanity in the camp’s deplorable conditions. At one point, Shukhov is reminded that he has nearly completed his sentence. The idea brings on a sense of elation in him, but very briefly. He quickly suppresses his swelling hopefulness, not allowing himself to forget that he is still a prisoner, and still at the mercy the “bosses”, who might add another ten years to his sentence if struck with the urge. It is intriguing to point out that while the reader may be separated from the protagonist by unfathomable distances in terms of both geography and time, the story is told in a manner that allows for a degree of empathy that transcends physical and temporal barriers. The protagonist treats his hardships in a way that declares to the reader, “This is a HUMAN being, with HUMAN problems”. The camps awful standards of living become just that: standards. However poorly they are treated, the workers simply grow accustomed to the conditions, to the point of celebrating things that would have likely ruined their day in the free world. Shukhov, for example, mentions that when, as a free man, he used to feed oats to his horses, he could have never imagined looking forward to a ladle-full of those very same oats as if they were a treat. Another character, referred to as “the captain” due to his service in the navy, adds some interesting contrast. He is new to the camp, and can thus be observed as he slowly adjusts to its conditions. He gradually displays signs of adjustment, and begins to subconsciously accept his predicament as normal, being shown no feasible alternative. Ultimately, what allows the work gang to continue despite their plight is the teamwork and camaraderie they have forged through their struggles. Their stern yet compassionate foreman serves as an anchor for gang 104. Being a prisoner and a victim himself, he can relate to his workers, and vice-versa. This allows for a sort self-perpetuating motivation within the group, with each man motivated by the determination of his peers. Shukhov even shows hints of pride in his work, having been a craftsman himself, and patiently corrects and assists his fellows as they all work towards a common goal.
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written, compelling novel about a man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, sentenced to 10 years in a “special” work camp in post second world war Russia. Shukhov has already served 8 years of his sentence, and has survived the brutal and inhuman conditions of the camp. He takes things day to day, surviving only one day at a time. This is accentuated by the nature of the novel itself, only telling one day in his life at the camp, because that is how he mainly looks at it. Throughout the novel Shukhov faces much adversity, from the unrelenting guards enforcing cruel rules to the constant lack of food and proper nutrition, however, he remains unbreakable in his objective to maintain his dignity and pride in the dehumanizing circumstances he is faced with. For instance, even though he was nearly starving and it was almost 20 below, he never ate any meal with his hat on. He could not bring himself down to that level, where there was very little dignity. Further, Shukhov struggles with the constant battle between faith and survival. Feeding the physical body or feeding the soul and mind. This struggle is depicted through two things; firstly, through Shukhovs fellow inmate Alyosha, who is a dedicated Baptist, and who focuses more on his prayers than his limited food rations, and secondly, through the importance of the bread rations at the work camp, and their essential importance to the inmates, especially to Shukhov. This novel, although limited to only one specific day, truly encompasses an era of Russia that was, for a long time very secret. It touches on several universal themes which all readers are able to identify with; the struggle to maintain dignity and pride in situations that are grim and hopeless, as well as the continuous battle for the balance between feeding the soul or feeding the body. This is not the sort of book to be read in an afternoon. It is a book that requires, that deserves, time for the reader to contemplate over the deeper meaning that is found within it. It is so rich in context that to try to skim through it is meaningless because, if skimmed, the reader will finish will a brief summary from the tip of the iceberg and will leave it quite disappointed. In order to retain the full content of the novel on all the levels possible, the reader must savour the book slowly, listen to each word said carefully, and analyze the characters actions meticulously. Only then can a reader fully appreciate the extent to which this book reveals not only Shukhovs day, but the universal themes that encompasses it.
ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH takes readers through life in a Russian prison camp during the days of Stalin. The character and story are based on the author's real-life experience as an unjustly held political prisoner. Beatings, starvation and cruelty were the staples of existence for the prisoners, who carved out their daily life through exhaustive work camp labor in sub-zero temperatures. Driven to the edge of survival, readers witness the subtle means by which the lead character maintains his sense of humanity. From simply hanging on to a secret spoon to eat with that he made himself as a means of small hope, to the end of the book where he shows care for his fellow prisoners - the main character's focus is not on things that were lost, such as his former life of freedom with his wife - but instead on things within the camp that he finds to keep him going, such as a pair of felt boots or a small piece of bread he hides to eat later. Such perspective embodies the courageous qualities of the human spirit. For readers who enjoyed this book, I strongly recommend reading an intense journey that chronicles incredible perseverance in the face of adversity - a memoir by Gregg Milligan called A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. As a young boy subjected to severe physical, mental and sexual abuse, Gregg finds ways to keep his hope alive - such as finding a stray dime to purchase a fruit pie from the corner store, taking refuge in a quiet field at the end of the block, and caring for a kitten rejected by its mother. Readers will be struck the pure innocence of a child's heart prevailing in the depths of evil. The love he has for his siblings and even his abusive mother is a testament to its endurance. An unforgettable story, exquisitely written in a searing visual style, A BEAUTIFUL WORLD will ever remain with those that read it. The strength and resilience of those that suffer encourages all of us to stay the course, no matter what difficulties in life we may face. Look no further than ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH and A BEAUTIFUL WORLD for proof. And in the words of Gregg Milligan, "Few rise above all the decadence done unto them. Those blessed few leave a great influence of a better day filled with clean hope and blossoming opportunities. We are all capable of leaving this mark - no matter what we've been through."
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes the daily routine from reveille at 5 A.M. to lights out at 10 P.M. in a "special" prison camp in Siberia. The protagonist of the novel is Ivan Denisovich is a former carpenter, who has been in several of these camps for the past eight years, serving a ten-year term for "treason." The novel narrates the events of this day without chapter divisions, recording Ivan's progress through the eyes of an omniscient, third-person narrator who sometimes places himself into the protagonist's mind, recording his thoughts and feelings as Ivan himself would express them. First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union. This novel, I give about a 3 1/2 stars. I really enjoyed the fact that it was like I was looking through Ivan Denisovich's eyes. It was graphic, horrifing, and different. That's what all good books are all about. I would defently recommend this book to anyone. If you enjoy history, this would be for you! This novel fully captures the power of the story.
I read this in English, so I am hesitant to judge the language. Overall, this is brilliant and, at places, even humorous. Economic and evocative, philosophical and full of the senses, with compact and precise characterizations of the players in this particular camp, barrack, etc. - a portrait of the microcosm that can stand for any Gulag. Since I was already familiar with the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of Gulag life from other books and movies (Shalamov's Kolyma Tales", Amis' "House of Meetings" - which I didn't like - Weir's "The Way Back"), I was looking out for the craft aspects of the book: how was it structured, how did Solzhenitsyn get under the reader's skin. The passage of time is important. Our protagonist Shukhanov tracks the passage of sun and then the moon. There are no clocks available to the prisoners, but he always knows what time it is. The workday is excruciatingly long, and one can survive it only by focusing on surviving the smaller chunks and setting small yet life-saving goals: to get one more minute of warmth, to barter a pinch of tobacco, to get a good drying spot for one's boots on the stove, to get a sick note from the doctor, to get out of the barracks last so you can get back in first, to avoid the guards, to conceal a length of wire during a search, to catch out an empty tray in the cafeteria when it changes hands, to gauge when to share with a fellow zek and when to curse and kick him. These bit goals in the "civilian" world may be trifles, but in the Gulag they add up to the overarching goal - to survive your term, be it ten or twenty-five years.
For those who love freedom, and the spirit of survival, this book is a must-read.
“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is a great read for anybody interested not only in Soviet Russian historical literature, but also the minute and accurate details of a regular day in a prison camp. Solzhenitsyn does an impressive job of literally describing a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich (referred to mostly as Shukov). In about 150 pages, every event – both important and trivial – of Ivan’s day in the prison camp is depicted in grand detail to the point of sometimes spending two or three pages on something so insignificant as obtaining a bowl of soup at dinnertime or the process of building a wall on the second floor of a building. Although “One Day in the Life” is a relatively smooth read, it does go quite slowly and the storyline is hard to understand in some sections. Despite the lethargy of the plot’s development, everything mentioned in the storyline is quite accurate, as the events described are based off of the author’s own experiences in such a camp. Solzhenitsyn is a master of detail, depicting every tiny trick and tip Ivan uses to stay alive and make his life in prison easier. From sewing and extra piece of bread into his mattress to hide for later, to hiding a spoon in his boot, every seemingly inconsequential action of Ivan’s throughout the day is mentioned in detail. Solzhenitsyn also does a great job of developing themes and messages that are intertwined with the plot. Several times throughout the story, the importance of self-reliance is emphasized, as well as the benefits of collaboration with other inmates. The unfairness of the punishments, the poor hygiene of the prisoners, the small amount of food they are given, and the harsh conditions in which they work all contribute to the underlying message of the book. This story is not a political statement based on contradictory viewpoints and opposing positions between Soviet and prisoner (although there are some instances where these contrasting views are seen, such as when Shukov (Ivan) explains to a Soviet guard that he believes that the moon wanes because god pulverizes it into millions of stars. This viewpoint conflicts with Soviet logic, which entertains the thought that when the moon wanes, it is simply not seen). Rather, the political controversy comes from what is depicted during one of Ivan’s 3,653 days in the camp. Although I personally have mixed feelings towards “One Day in the Life,” I recommend this book to any reader who does not mind a slow development and is interested in the hardships of Soviet imprisonment.